How Much Iron Does Dad Need? Not as Much as You Think

Nutrition

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder 

Some of us celebrate Father’s Day by firing up the grill and sharing a home-cooked meal with our meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. While catering to dad’s classic meal is okay on occasion, there is actually a nutrient that we need to make sure he doesn’t have too much of all year round. It’s iron.

What’s wrong with too much iron?

Iron may be very good for us. It is an essential mineral that helps transport oxygen throughout the body and create new red blood cells. However, consuming large amounts of iron may be detrimental. Men should generally aim for only 8 mg of iron a day. In comparison, premenopausal women should aim for 18 mg per day.

The irony in the meat-and-potatoes idiom is that iron is largely present in meat and potatoes, along with peas, beans, seafood, dark leafy greens, dried fruit and fortified cereals and grains.

While women lose iron when they menstruate, men, on the other hand, may have an increased risk of consuming too much iron. Your body can’t get rid of extra iron , and too much of it could damage organs and joints. An excess of stored iron may also increase the risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis and other conditions, according to the Iron Disorders Institute.

How can we be proactive?

  • Know the foods that are rich in iron.

  • There are two forms of iron in food: heme and non-heme. Heme iron is absorbed two to three times more efficiently than non-heme. Heme iron foods include meat, fish and poultry. These should be eaten less frequently if you’re aiming for less iron.

  • If there is too much iron in the blood, donating blood may help with the removal of some iron, while saving a life in the process.

  • Get nutritional testing, and see what your levels of iron are. Genome sequencing may also help determine which conditions your family may be predisposed.

Here are some foods you can substitute for iron-rich dishes, so dad can be around for more Father’s Days to come: 

  • Fruit and vegetables have non-heme iron and contain fiber and antioxidants that help keep out free radicals produced from iron.

  • Tea or coffee can reduce the production of non-heme iron.

  • Grains and rice are high in fiber and may help combat the absorption of non-heme iron.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here.

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